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This spring, senior Grace Dodd will finish her grade-school years at The STEM Academy of Lewisville and begin college and a promising tennis career at Sacramento State in the fall.  A dream she’s had for quite some time, but one that looked difficult to reach before she chose to attend a ResponsiveEd school in sixth grade.

Following in her mother’s footsteps and picking up a racquet at age 10, tennis quickly became Grace’s passion and took up much of her time amongst lessons, conditioning training, and plenty of traveling to high-level tournaments across the state. The hectic schedule made it nearly impossible to sit in a traditional classroom all week for close to eight hours a day, stay up late every night after workouts doing homework, and have any semblance of a social life beyond school and tennis.

In sixth-grade, she made the switch from a traditional public school to iSchool High of Lewisville, a ResponsiveEd school. “We came here originally for the flexible schedule that could give her the balance of both worlds as far as being a competitive athlete and having a life, while still being in the classroom,” says Grace’s mother Andrea Dodd.

“We found out in second-grade, that she has dyslexia.  Because of this, she has to learn differently and has become very analytical,” adds Andrea.  “I wanted her to stay in a classroom because of her condition and there was no way I could homeschool her.”

“I knew I needed to make a change because I can’t be late to practice every day and then have to leave early because of school and homework,” remembers Grace.  “One of my friends went to iSchool High and told me to come check it out. So I went and that day I told my mom, ‘I love it and I’m going to go there.’”

“This school has been phenomenal. They’ve helped her so much in her writing, how to think outside the box, and just express herself,” notices Andrea. “As parents, we have been so pleased and we tell everybody about this school as much as we can.”  

“For my situation it was great, but it’s also great for kids who specialize in things like engineering or those who take dual-credit courses that count toward college. It has enabled some of my friends to get their associate’s degree without having to pay for it,” says Grace. “The school is so much smaller and everyone’s so much more personable. You are not ‘X’ student or ‘Y’ student, all of the teachers here know you and call you by name and have a genuine interest in your life.”

One of those teachers is Andres Cordova, the Spanish teacher at The STEM Academy of Lewisville, the new iSchool High that Grace transferred to when it opened in 2017.

“She’s a role model and a leader,” says Cordova. “I notice that people gravitate toward her. She makes a difference in her teachers’ lives and also in her peers. Whenever she’s around, the other students carry themselves differently. She’s a great influence.”

“I’ve had the opportunity to talk to other student-athletes here about managing their time better. You can’t just goof off and watch Netflix for three hours every night,” advises Grace. “You have to schedule your time well around schoolwork, practice and the gym.”

The dedication has paid off and her leadership qualities were on display last year when Grace went to California for a college tennis showcase.  There, she caught the eye of coaches at Sacramento State who, in September, offered her a full scholarship to play tennis for the next four years. 

“I don’t think the coaches know what they are getting yet,” Cordova exclaims. “This is a special kid. I think she will be a leader on the team in her first year even amongst the veterans. She will make that much of an impact immediately, there is no doubt in my mind.”

“I think she’s going to be great in school. She’s ready,” says Andrea, who has seen the progress made in the last seven years and knows how dedicated her daughter will be in college and with her new team.

“There are so many skills that she learns from playing tennis,” notes Andrea. “It teaches her integrity, problem-solving, and self-confidence, but what she got from going to school here is the ability to have a social life in addition to her schoolwork and tennis. I think the teachers here truly care about the kids and what’s going on in their lives and that has made all the difference.”

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